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Full text of "History And Human Relation"

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THE    DANGERS    OF    HISTORY

They would have been better equipped to meet the
developments of the succeeding decades if they had
studied in ancient history the deeper processes that
political bodies have been observed to undergo over
long periods. When Norway was invaded in 1940 tte
view was put forward in English official quarters that
Hitler had broken one of the laws of history., in that he
had conducted an invasion across water without possess-
ing the command of the sea. Again the rigidities to
which historical thinking are liable were the cause of
deception. Even if a thing has never proved possible
in the past we are not justified in inferring directly that
history has proved such a thing to be impossible.
When France collapsed in 1940 many Englishmen
regarded it as self-evident that that country had made a
tragic mistake in preparing only for defensive warfare
and putting her trust in the Maginot Line. A French
statesman said, however, that he, for his part, regretted
not the construction of the Maginot Line but the failure
to continue something of the sort to the sea. Other
alternatives still were open, for the explanation of the
downfall of France—including the possibility that her
armies had made the reverse of the mistake generally
imputed to them, by rushing with too great 'elan into
Belgium when hostilities were opened in that region.
On occasion it might require very subtle calculation and
a microscopic sifting of evidence to decide the choice
between the alternative interpretations that are possible
in a situation of this kind. Few people take this
trouble, and it is exactly in choices of this type that a
very slight insertion of " wishful thinking " carries the

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